Saturday, October 21, 2017

Jesus lives

'Jesus lives' is a long testimony of how I encountered Jesus recently. It has happened time and again, ever since I kept my heart and mind open to HIM. My only request to all those reading this, whether you believe or not, whether you agree with me or not, give some time to read it. And then share it. Because, you never know who else needs that little grace of HIS to be lifted up and be healed, just like I did.

August 8, 2017: My family was in Chennai. My wife and I had an appointment with the US consulate to stamp our visas. All our paperwork was perfect. It should have had no issues. But, then my fears came true in a very extraordinary way. My wife got her visa stamped without any questions. But, mine was put on hold for administrative processing. Interestingly, this process was like a blackbox. Nobody could find out what was happening about me until I heard of the conclusion. The worst of it was that it had no time frame. I was not required to provide anything more than the application I had already provided.  I did not question. So, while my wife was almost in tears, I walked out happy because GOD had already provided. When we went on our journey, we risked our entire assets in GOD’s hands. If both our visas were denied for any reason, we would lose everything we had. GOD had answered our prayers. He had provided for my wife to return back and take care of things. But, I did not understand what HIS plan for me was. What did HE want me to do? I was bitter, but, for the first time in my life, I did not lose my cool. I decided to wait and watch.

August 26, 2017: Our flight was scheduled for August 28, 2017. And I had not heard about my visa approval even with the help of our local senator and friends. So, we took the hard decision. My wife and 6 year old daughter would keep their tickets. We decided that my 3 year old son would stay with me and come with me when my visa would get approved. Of course, there was a big question of, if at all get approved. But, I thought it would be easy. It would not be

August 27, 2017: It was just another day before my family would be split into half. We always did things together. I could not hold back my tears. But, I had to. I had made up my mind that I would give it one year to live without my family. Somehow, that was the way I was trying to console myself in my mind. I wanted a countdown so that I could get to the date that we could get back together if the situation was the worst. The one good thing I did. I never questioned Jesus. I kept asking HIM, ‘What is your plan for us?”

August 28, 2017: The day had come. The car was ready for all of us to get to the airport. It was to be a 2 hour journey. I wished that it would take forever.  But, as we travelled through the busy city of Bangalore, it was getting very very close for my comfort. And my dear Noah had not known what was happening. He thought he was travelling back home that he loved. His school was starting in a weeks time. He was excited. So, we came to the airport and we decided to buy time by stopping for a snack. But, that too got over and now it was getting late. My heart was swelling up in tears. And there was a crowd around me. None of us wanted to call time. I had to. And I did by asking my wife and daughter to go inside for security. And then all hell broke loose. Noah just could not split from them. He wanted to go in and go home. And we kept crying and hugging each other. Until again it was upto me to call time and give the orders. And as my family was split up, where we could see them, but could not touch, I had another role to do. I had to make Noah laugh. So, I did as I knew how he would crack up. I was thankful that my parents were with us. I wonder how it would have been for the two of us to get back. So, we took the bus. Noah thought we were travelling to Trumbull, CT on the bus. He had amazingly calmed down. That calmed me too. But, I had questions to Jesus. “Please tell me, what is your plan for me? For us?” “What next?”
 My wife and daughter reached Connecticut. And then in the next few days, they found amazing neighbours, who helped them in every way possible. God had answered one question of mine. “Would my family be cared in my absence?” Atleast my neighbours did. That was a consolation. But, something else happened. On Aug 29, 2017, it was 11.30AM. And suddenly, I decided, I would go for the afternoon mass with Noah. I told him that the only way we could get tickets to CT was if Jesus would make it happen. He agreed. And what a beautiful mass, what a beautiful sermon. It was about GOD’s love even when we forget HIM. And Noah was so loud with his prayers and singing that the priest mentioned him in his sermon as to how everybody should pray like him, loudly. He even got a candy from an aunty he did not know. It seemed people who did not know us had started to pray for us. I felt good. I felt confident. I could see so many people praying for us. I had not felt like this before. I became positive. So, Noah and me started to go to mass everyday. Everyday a beautiful reading and a meaningful sermon. This privilege is not there in the masses I attend in the US most times. I wonder why?
I started seeing GOD’s plan. First, I realized that the reason Noah was with me was not because he needed me. But, I needed him. His innocence, his love for me was totally honest. His questions were brutal to listen to. He would point to an auto or a bus and ask me why we were not taking them to get to CT. And I had to answer him so that he was satisfied and be happy for the day. But, I was afraid of another question of his. He started asking me why Jesus was taking time to get him his tickets. And I told him that Jesus had already listened to him. But, the man who was not giving tickets was taking his time. He needed to listen to Jesus. And then I started a little prayer to Jesus. I realized that this situation was going to be a huge one for Noah and Claire’s faith in Jesus. Ever since they were born, we constantly talked to them about Jesus answering their prayers. So, this was a test. Would Jesus answer their prayers? I was sure he would. What I was not sure, the people who needed to be transformed in order for this to happen. The world has taken such a turn for worse.

September 1, 2017: The long labor day weekend was here. We went for the 12 noon mass that day too. At 11 30, I just checked for an update on my visa. Nothing had changed. So, after coming home from another beautiful mass at St. Anthony’s friary, I checked the status at around 3 PM. Something had changed at 12 noon. My status had been updated. I was excited. So, I woke up my wife in CT. It was late night, but I would not wait. She was excited too. But, then my 6 year old Claire came to me and spoke something that struck me straight in my heart. She had woken up from deep sleep and when she heard that my visa status page had been updated (it was not yet approved), she went and got her bible and read out to me something about Abraham and his faith in GOD and how he did not hesitate when GOD asked him for Isaac’s sacrifice. I was amazed. It was about 1AM in CT and here was my girl telling me about the bible. But, what she said to me told me something else. We have all read about Abraham’s faith and what he did that day. But, what was Isaac doing or saying? That is not written in the text. I reflected. My little Noah was Isaac. Noah could have been in CT with mom and sis. But, he sacrificed for me. But, each moment after, he was so diligent and faithful to everything I told him to believe. This was an amazing moment for me. I had always heard about Bible being a living book. Now, I saw why? I now waited for the next working day, Sep 5, 2017. I hoped that a decision on my visa would be done and our ordeal would be over. But, when I googled as to what the status change meant, I found information that it may mean nothing. Some people had waited in such a situation for months and months with multiple status changes. That would be torture. All of this made me realize how slaves are treated. I was going through it, even though my family and I had done everything according to the law. But, then it also started to dawn on me as to why our family was going through all of this.

The Sunday before we left for India, I heard in the sermon a real story. My priest confessed that he was distraught that he was unable to help an illegal immigrant because he could not take the courageous step of going by the bible, which may be contrary to the diocese and the government. It was amazing that he professed his guilt. It was an honest admission and the reality of our lives and the church and the government too. On August 8, 2017, when my ordeal began and when our senator was unable to help other than to contact the consulate for information, I got a message from our church. I do not remember if it was the bulletin or a email that was passed around by the Men’s ministry group that I was part of. It was a victorious message about how a movement initiated by some in our church was able to halt an illegal immigrant from being deported from the US and split up from her family. I had on that day felt hope about my own pastors and the church helping my family and me. So, I enquired. I got prayers. When my wife returned and went back to church that Sunday without Noah and myself, I hoped that many would walk up and do something. After all, everything we had done was by the law. It did not happen. A couple of wonderful friends did sympathize. And when she revealed this to me, I started to look at GOD’s plan in different light.

Why did my family go through this ordeal? The answer was that Jesus was asking us to bring to the notice of our community the plight of millions of people who are being persecuted and who have no voice. And we accepted the cross he wanted us to carry. We could have felt safe by not doing anything and stay back without going home. We would have been spared our ordeal. But, the community and the church we live in would not have known what Jesus wanted them to stand for. I was so glad Jesus had chosen us and this sad, heart wrenching ordeal had taken a whole new meaning. I was filled with fire of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. There was nothing to be fearful. There was a lot of pride.

September 5, 2017: Noah and me went to mass at 12 noon. And again at 3PM, I checked the status. Lo, behold. It was all done. My visa had been approved. Noah was on top of the world. His prayers had been answered. And his whole perspective changed. The beauty about this episode was that many many people whom we had not known had seen how this little child would loudly pray for his needs in the church. I earnestly hoped that it would inspire somebody else.
September 15, 2017: We landed at the JFK airport. Everything was smooth. And we were all so ecstatic. We were also tired. But, a lot of backlogs had to be met. But, we were so glad that we were now together in Noah’s favourite Trumbull home.

As life got back to normal, we looked forward to our next main event. It was a 2 day  retreat organized by our prayer group members in New Jersey. I had felt in India that we may be missing out on this. But, GOD had made a way. So, we accepted to be part of the music ministry. I was comfortable doing it as I was in the choir in the churches for a long time. This time it would be special to sing praises o GOD. We had seen his amazing work in our lives. But, then something else was in my mind. Ever since I started to go to everyday mass in India during my ordeal and realized GOD’s plan, I started getting visions about speaking about our ordeal to others. I even tried to find avenues in Indian prayer groups, but people ignored my suggestions. They simply did not want to hear my story. These were my own people, who were so devoted to GOD’s work. They had no time for my story. But, then the opportunity came. The organizer of this retreat was seeking people to give their testimonies for the retreat. I did not hesitate. But, as the day of the retreat came near, I did not prepare my testimony because of all the many things I was involved in every day. So, a couple of days before the retreat, I found some time and I wrote through the testimony. But, when I read it through, it was extremely hard hitting and bitter. I realized I was bitter, unforgiving and revengeful. There were many people who I thought were responsible for my family going through this ordeal. Some were part of my prayer group too. Infact, very very close friends built a wall because of the politics of faith for the past 1 year. 

September 30, 2017: I had worked until late the previous night to finish up my work before going to the retreat. So, as we drove to New Jersey from Connecticut, I was totally blank. And although I was supposed to give my testimony the next day, I was not sure I had any time for prepare. I knew that I had written a very bitter testimony and I knew Jesus did not want me to speak that. As we entered the retreat hall, I looked around and found 2 gentlemen, John and Tony, who were new to me that were going to co-ordinate the music for the retreat. They were getting ready and we joined in. As the retreat started, atleast until lunch, I was very happy that I was singing. But, for some reason, I was not fully into the retreat. It was also because I was very tired. So, at lunch time, I went out to the beautiful St. Joseph’s Shrine park with my book that I had written my testimony. There were lots of beautiful places to pray and meditate. I went to Mother Mary’s statue and I read my testimony after praying. But, I was unable to tone down the bitterness in my testimony. Then, in the afternoon session of the retreat, it was all about repentance and forgiveness. It was then that something touched my heart. And as we prayed and sang, I felt peace coming into me. I started feeling the experience of the retreat that I had hoped for. So, when we got to the tea break, I again went out to the park. This time, I went to the cross. I knelt and prayed just one thing. I told Jesus to help me with my testimony. I told HIM that it was bitter. I asked HIM to heal me so that I could touch others with my testimony. I told HIM that I wanted HIM to speak through me.

And then, we finished with the sessions. It was pack up time. My wife started preparing the youth of our group to do the Praise and Worship the next day. It was to happen at the same session where I was to present my testimony. And then we went to the retreat house with a lot of people to have our dinner and sleep. I knew time was precious. So, I did not speak much. I just ate my dinner and ran back to my room to be alone so that I could work on my testimony.  And I just took a pen and started to write. What I wrote was about the very same incidences, but, the words were so different. My bitter tone had changed to the one of love, caring and leading. There was no doubt about the magic of Jesus. The reason was I had given it up to HIM. And then I started to see the signs.
October 1, 2017: The first session started with an amazing Praise and Worship session by the youth. These were the very youth I felt would not rise up to the situation. There was some magic working in that retreat hall. And it was for me to feel and realize it. The best part was that the theme of that session fell perfectly into my testimony. The question was whether I could deliver it the way Jesus wanted it. So, when I stepped up, to my surprise, I had found a new voice, a new fire. I never looked at what I had written. And when I had finished I was so peaceful. And then when people started walking up to me and speaking to me about the testimony, about their own lives where they had faced situations parallel to what I had spoken, I knew Jesus had spoken through me. But, the best was yet to happen.
The retreat was beautiful. I was so touched and with fire. I had no hesitation whatsoever.  I had been healed. And as we wound up late in the evening, I was sad that it had ended. I wanted more. So, as we were packing up and saying goodbye, somebody walked upto me to speak. It was John. He had played the keyboards for 2 days. And I had seen him stand up more than anyone at the retreat. He had seemed a shy and mild spoken person. He was a beautiful keyboard player. But, we had not spoken for 2 days apart from the music. And because they did not belong to our prayer group, there was no way we would have kept in touch if he had not walked up that moment. And he quietly revealed that he was touched by my testimony. I felt good about hearing it from him. I was on fire and I told him a lot of things in just a couple of minutes about how I had seen Jesus worked in my life. While I don’t want to reveal one of the things he told me that he was looking to hear from Jesus, I realized he was emotional. But, I didn’t know him. And as our conversation went on, he suddenly told me “ I lost my wife  last year”. And that moment, while I was still speaking to him and hoping to find consoling words, in my mind I realized how tiny my ordeal was. What I had gone through was nothing compared to probably what John had gone through. I was very sad that I would not have time to spend with him and know him and console him. I immediately told my wife. And after we said goodbye, as we were driving, John kept coming to our minds. What was Jesus trying to tell?
So, the next day, my wife sent me a link that I would like all of you to read.

And my whole perspective changed. Jesus was pointing me to a very special person of his in John. He was pointing me towards a mission. He was pointing me to somebody who had taken a moment of extreme pain and converted it into a lifelong mission of love, service and music. And the beauty of John’s story and his wife Merlyn, who passed away on October 17, 2016 should be in his own beautiful words. So, here is a link that he sent to some of us.

But, the beauty of Jesus’ message which is reflected in John’s message about Merlyn is amazing. When I stepped on the podium on the day of the retreat to speak my testimony, my theme was very simple. I wanted everyone to know through my testimony that Jesus lives. Not just on Easter Sunday, but each and every other day. But, the beauty of John’s message is that Merlyn lives too, not just for John, but for all of us. The reason being that Jesus gave each one of us the beautiful gift of resurrection. And that is what I realize that we fail to understand each and every day. That HE is alive in each one of us. And so is each one of those people who have gone away from us. We are very accustomed to accepting Jesus being crucified and while we accept resurrection, it is a mystery and a ritual that is best kept for Easter Sunday. I hope through this testimony of mine and John’s, we could start to bring the living Jesus into our lives and to others. Because the world needs it most right now.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The miracle of the little cauliflower plant

     Having enjoyed gardening this summer, here is the miracle of the cauliflower plant. Its interesting that the Bible starts with GOD creating man and a woman in the garden of Eden. And just before Jesus is captured, he spends time in the garden of Gethsamane. And he tells a number of parables regarding the seeds, trees, the farmers, etc. Its safe to assume that garden is a place where one may find GOD and his deeds. For real? I did.
     Nearly 45 days ago, I visited the Home Depot garden center looking for plants for our garden. And I decided to test out the cauliflower plants. So, I picked out a set of 6 plants with 4 leaves each. A couple of days later, I prepared pots and started transferring them into 6 pots. Then, I realized that one of them was broken right at the tip. All that was left of it was the roots and a single leaf.  I could well have thrown it away and been happy with 5 cauliflowers this year. But, then I would have missed out on a lifetime miracle. So, I planted the broken plant thinking that in a few days it would just rot and I would just put in another plant. Days passed and the other 5 plants grew bigger. The 4 little leaves wilted and dried as they had bigger and newer leaves and I waited for the cauliflowers. A week ago I saw the little cauliflower in all the 5 good plants. I felt great. Then, I looked for the little cauliflower plant and I still found that one leaf standing firm. That plant had lived for nearly 40 days and I continued to water and care for it the same way I did for others. Many a time, I did think about throwing it away. I knew that there was no hope for any cauliflower. The tip had broken. There was no chance for this plant. But, somehow, I never got down to pulling it out and throwing it away. And the plant with that little leaf just refused to die away on its own either.
     Well, July 9th was approaching. Little Claire’s birthday was close. And we were also celebrating my dad’s secret 75th birthday. We had planned a little party and I had to welcome guests. I needed a theme for my welcome. I was not getting it. So, on July 7th, I walked around in the garden and I was rearranging my pots. And I came to the little plant in the pot. Before I saw it, I planned to throw away everything that was not good because I wanted the garden to look pretty for the party. So, this time I was determined that this little plant should go. And then I looked into the pot. And there I found my miracle.

     What I found were 4 little cauliflower plants emerging out from the soil. There was no chance this could have happened. I am a botanist by the way. So, I know my science too. A cauliflower plant can only have one cauliflower. And it grows from the tip. I was so ecstatic. I showed my little kids and they were amazed. And we talked about what it meant. That’s when I realized the beauty of the miracle and the gardens in the bible. I drew many conclusions. The one I used in the party was that the little leaf represented my father. His 75 yrs, where many a time he was a lonely leaf. But, he had hung on. And then his perseverance had taken fruit. And we were now celebrating his 75th birthday with his lovely grand kids.
     But, I want to go beyond it. The little plant represented our faiths too sometimes. They are tiny and shaky, sometimes completely insignificant. But, if we hang on, look how GOD, the gardener tends to us. He gives fruits aplenty. This little plant also represents each of our lives too. Sometimes, we are the leaf and somebody else is the gardener who tends to us, keeps us alive. Sometimes, we need to be the gardener for somebody else who is hanging on.  Frankly, its been 3 days since I realized this miracle in my garden. But, there is one reality that I just can’t stop admiring. That little leaf. It kept that plant going. It didn’t fade away, no matter what. This story will live on forever in me. But, I want to share it with as many people I can. Because we all need miracles. And we don’t realize many a time that they don’t happen anymore. They do. They are probably right out there in the garden. And I am looking for the next one. Are you?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The sacrifice Jesus would love

          The lent was over last weekend. It had been an interesting 40 days. Personally, it was filled with anxiety, despair, anger and otherwise busy. So, now that Jesus was risen from the dead, it was probably time to relax. But, the emotions remained the same because living circumstances never changed. So, I just happened to ask my 5 yr old Claire, this Friday afternoon if she knew what sacrifice was.  She said “Yes Daddy”.  I asked her to tell me an example in her own words so that I could understand what she had understood about sacrifice. She fumbled to put her thoughts together. So, she asked me to give her an example. I told her to imagine that if I was driving near a mall on a Friday afternoon with $10 in my pocket and the theater was playing a movie I loved to see. I had 2 choices. One, to watch the movie with the 10 dollars. On the other hand, those 10$ could buy 3 cans of milk for my kids. And given the uncertainties of our jobs, that would mean those 10$ could mean 3 weeks of milk supply. And as a parent that would be a kind of sacrifice I needed to do consistently.  My 2 yr old Noah was playing around and he kept asking what we were talking about. I explained to him and moved on with Claire because she was ready with her answer. She said that if she would see a pizza and wanted to have it, she would sacrifice it. I challenged her a little further. I told her that it was more of resisting a temptation rather than a deep sacrifice. “Think of another example”. And immediately she said “If I were to see a very nice art kit in the mall and would want to pick it up. But, I won’t. Because we have so much art supplies lying around at home. So, I would wait till I had used all the art supplies at home before looking out for one”. I immediately took the opportunity to tell her that she had got the point very well. I told her that’s what businesses do all the time. That’s their job. Keep tempting us into buying things we probably don't need. And we need to think of those who are not as privileged and see what we could do for them. And then I was all happy with this conversation thinking that in spite of the amazing strife in my mind, I was able to talk about an important subject calmly to my 5 yr old. My 2 yr old was playing around and I thought he must have had no idea of what we were talking about.  And then we moved on with our day. And I had no idea of what was to come.
                The next day, which was a Saturday, I settled down after a cup of tea to get on with my project. And then in a little while both my kids came to me. The 2 yr old had a 1$ note in his hand and the 5 yr old had a 5$ note. They had been saving money in their piggy bank whenever they did an excellent job. And they are amazing. My 2 yr old gave me the 1$ and said “Here dad. We have lot of money in the piggy bank. This is for you.” The 5yr old quipped “ Daddy, you buy so many things for us. The next time you buy something, use that 1$”. And then she went to mommy who was busy getting breakfast ready and said that she was putting the 5 dollars in the box where she was saving some of her money for poor children.
                 First of all, I was all teared up. And then what had started out as a lesson for the kids had turned out to be a lesson for me. Grown-ups have a lot of moral stories to tell in theory. But when it comes to putting them in practice, we wait for the next chance to execute. What my little ones did this Saturday morning was exactly put the WORD into action. And the risen Lord Jesus must have been absolutely proud. No doubt why Jesus loved kids.